All eyes will be on the Balenciaga runway Sunday morning in Paris when Demna Gvasalia debuts his first collection since being hired as the label's artistic director in October, replacing Alexander Wang. And the Kering-owned brand is making the experience more accessible to viewers outside the venue than ever before through a 360-degree virtual reality live stream, available through a custom app.
The free Balenciaga app is available now for tablet and smartphone devices on Google Play and through the App Store, and it has two viewing options: one requiring a headset and one that does not; a representative for the brand says the app is compatible with any headset built for iPhone or Android. (If you don't happen to have an Oculus DK2, we recommend a $15 Google Cardboard option.) And like other seasons, a straight-on live stream will be available for desktop viewers at live.balenciaga.com when the show begins at 5:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. There will not be any e-commerce element tied to the live stream or app, which should clarify Balenciaga's stance on the "buy now, see now" trend.
Plenty of designers have experimented with virtual reality technology, but most have confined that experience to inside their brand's stores. Topshop was first to try the technology, providing shoppers the chance to view the fall 2014 runway show at its flagship store in London, both live and for two days after the show through Oculus Rift-based headsets. Dior captured backstage beauty and last-minute prep at its fall 2015 runway show in VR, too, and made that experience available in select stores in June through a custom headset it called "Dior Eyes." Two American brands also invested in the VR experience for fall 2015: Rebecca Minkoff filmed its runway show and released it through a smartphone app— very similar to Balenciaga's current plan — and sold a custom Google Cardboard headset. Tommy Hilfiger installed virtual reality headsets in select stores around the world in the fall, also allowing shoppers a three-dimensional view of the most recent runway show.
Meanwhile, in other realms of the fashion and beauty industry, beauty vlogger Michelle Phan has reportedly teamed up with Littlstar, a virtual reality company. And InStyle filmed a recent cover shoot with Drew Barrymore in VR to give readers a behind-the-scenes look, and sent select subscribers free cardboard headsets.